We recently wrote about the core pet vaccinations necessary to ensure the best dog and cat health. The American Association of Feline Practitioners and American Animal Hospital Association’s Canine Task Force have each published recommendations for veterinarians and pet owners. Unfortunately, many people still fail to have their furry family members vaccinated—and could be risking their lives as a result. For some, vaccination cost may be a deterrent. For others, it may be fear of potential side effects. If you’re uncertain about vaccinating your pet—for whatever reason—consider the following.

Low-cost vaccinations are available. If you’re afraid the cost of vaccinations will bust your budget, look for low-cost options in your area. You can Google “low-cost pet vaccinations in (your state)” or contact local animal shelters. Many have veterinarians on site and offer reduced fee spay, neuter and vaccination days.

Some vaccinations are required by law. Up-to-date rabies vaccinations are required in most states, through some require yearly administration and others call for re-vaccination every three years. Keep proof of your pets’ rabies vaccinations with their medical records and learn the laws in your area.

Younger pets need more vaccines than older pets. Unvaccinated kittens are more susceptible to the feline panleukopenia virus, and may die from it, though the disease is rarely found in older cats. Similarly, canine parvovirus kills more puppies than healthy adult dogs. Discuss your pet’s age and disease-related risks with your veterinarian before vaccinating accordingly.

You may not need to vaccinate your pet every year. The American Animal Hospital Association recommends vaccinations every three years. Again, discuss your pet’s needs with your veterinarian to create an appropriate vaccination schedule based on age, lifestyle, environment and current recommendations.

While a real threat, sarcomas are rare. No injection is completely free of risk, vaccination or otherwise. In cats, it appears that rabies and feline leukemia vaccinations are the most likely to cause sarcomas. However, the benefits of the vaccine likely outweigh the potential cancer danger.

You should be aware of vaccine reactions. Most pets never exhibit ill effects after vaccinations. However, you should observe your dog or cat and note any fever, lethargy, loss of appetite, swelling, vomiting, diarrhea, breathing difficulty or seizures and contact your veterinarian accordingly.

You don’t enjoy going to the doctor, but you do it anyway because you know it’s good for you. Do the same for your pets. Don’t skip their annual exams or routine vaccinations due to fear or uncertainty. Find a veterinarian you can trust and discuss your concerns.

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